LCA Tejas May Not be The Best But It’s More Superior Than Pakistan’s JF-17

According to reports, the armed forces are not in favour of proposed versions of indigenous advanced versions of Tejas, light combat jet, and main battle tank Arjun. The Indian Air Force is yet to give final operation clearance to Tejas, which has been in the development mode since almost 30 years.

In July, the IAF inducted the first squadron of home-grown Tejas with two fighter planes joining the force. The squadron named – Flying Daggers 45 – is expected to have its full strength by 2018-2020. However, the IAF is not eager to expand its Tejas unit.

The IAF has raised questions over several limitations that the Tejas has. The fighter jet’s limited range and weapon carrying capacity are on top of concerns that the force has pointed out.

The Tejas has been designed as a multi-role fighter. It can engage enemy aircraft with the R-73 short-range air-to-air missile (SRAAM) more potent air-to-air missiles, probably the Israeli Derby and Python, would be integrated. Against ground targets, the Tejas carries conventional and laser-guided bombs. Next year, it will have an integral 23 millimetre Gasha cannon.

Although it is one of the world’s lightest fighters, the Tejas’ weapons load of 3,500 kg compares well with most IAF fighters, including the Mirage-2000, Jaguar, upgraded MiG-27 and the MiG-21. Depending on the mission – strike, photoreconnaissance, or air defence – its eight hard points can carry missiles, bombs, fuel drop tanks or a targeting pod. It can bomb targets and fire missiles as accurately as the Sukhoi-30MKI. The latter scores mainly in its longer range and bigger weapons load, both stemming from its much larger size.

The Tejas’ capability is best known to the air force and navy test pilots in the National Flight Test Centre, who have tested it in 2,400 flights. They claim it may be more versatile than the MiG-29 (primarily built for air-to-air combat); the MiG-27 and the Jaguar (both oriented to ground strike); and all variants of the MiG-21, including the multi-role BISON.

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The Tejas’ likely adversary, the Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 fighter, has a slightly larger flight envelope, but the Tejas’ superior avionics give it a combat edge over the PAF’s older F-16A/Bs (currently being upgraded in Turkey); and superior to their new JF-17 Thunder light fighter, co-developed with China. Only the PAF’s 18 new F-16C/D Block 52 fighters, flying since 2010-11 from Jacobabad, may be a match for the Tejas.

LCA TEJAS VS JF-17

In terms of weapons, the LCA tejas has 8 hardpoints where the missiles and other weapon systems can be mounted, while the JF-17 thunder has 7 hardpoints. However, the LCA Tejas can carry a much larger variety of Western, Russian, Israeli and Indian weapon systems, as compared to the JF-17 which can handle a limited variety of Chinese and American weapons.

LCA Tejas is designed to carry air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision guided and standoff weaponry. Tejas can carry long-range beyond visual range weapons. According to ADA, Tejas can fire “highly agile high off-boresight missiles” to tackle any close combat threat.

What makes Tejas an agile bird in the air is its frame. Developers have used carbon fibre in its fuselage which reduces the weight of Tejas. It also helps the fighter jet to absorb enemy radar waves thus adding to its stealth capabilities.

According to PAC, JF-17 is capable of carrying weapons such as beyond visual range active missiles, highly agile Imaging infrared short range missiles, air-to-sea missiles, anti-radiation missiles, laser guided weapons, runway penetration bombs, general purpose bombs, training bombs and 23 mm double barrel gun.

One of the most important parameters in modern aerial warfare is avionics. The LCA has better avionics with a hybrid Multi Mode Radar (MMR) developed with Israel. The plane also has an indigenous electronic warfare suite known as Mayavi (illusionist). The targeting pod on the LCA Tejas is also the superior Litening unit, as compared to the FLIR used on the JF-17.

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Going forward, even the JF-17 will get a more modern suite of electronics and other improvements when it gets upgraded to the Block 2 variant. However, roughly by that time, HAL would also have upgraded the Tejas to its Mark-2 version, which would have a significant lead over the JF-17 in almost all parameters.

Defence and aviation experts says saveral times that any comparison between the two aircraft is not right.

Ravi Gupta, a former scientist with DRDO says that there is a generation gap between HAL LCA Tejas and pakistan JF-17. “JF-17 thunder is an upgraded version of MiG-21, developed by China for Pakistan. Tejas makes use of composite materials, while JF-17 is all metal. Tejas is far far superior in terms of avionics and manoeuvrability. HAL Tejas also boasts of a glass cockpit where data is available to the pilot in real-time digital format,”

“The induction of LCA Tejas is a proud moment for India and Indian airforce .Increasingly Indian defence players will compete to be a part of the Tejas supply chain. It is also a big leg up for the entire supply chain that has been established around HALTejas. ” “As far as the JF-17 is concerned, there is no comparison of Tejas with that Chinese aircraft. Tejas is in a class of its own,” Says Colonel KV Kuber, Independent Consultant Defence and Aerospace

The idea for an indigenous fighter aircraft was conceptualised in the 1970s, but actual work on the aircraft project started only in the 1980s. The aircraft was named ‘Tejas’ (meaning radiance in Sanskrit) by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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